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Posted by Simone Wilson
Everyone knows the summer beach clubs along the Tel Aviv coastline are for the young and beautiful (or the filthy rich). It only takes one painful night of trying to wave down a hot chick with a clipboard to learn your lesson clear through the end of September: Don't show up 'round these parts past 11 p.m. without a friend on the list or a cleavage bouquet for an entourage.
But 48-year-old Israeli politician Miri Regev isn't taking "No" for an answer. The extreme right-winger, who formerly served as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesperson and currently sits on the Israeli Knesset (the country's 120-member parliament), posted an angry rant to her YouTube account last Thursday, calling out beach club Clara for allegedly turning her away at the door. (Not surprising, really, with that morbid shade of lipstick and matronly neckline she showed up with. Don't hate the beach club, MK Regev, hate the game.)
The scene behind her is typical weekend Clara: No clear line, just a bunch of 18-year-olds clustering hopelessly around the entry pen, trying to suck their lollipops and gaze at their text messages just nonchalantly enough to impress clipboard chick and join the cool kids inside.
Ironically, MK Regev is best known around the world for comparing the spread of African migrants throughout Israel to a "cancer," helping incite race riots in South Tel Aviv with her anti-Sudanese rhetoric and reportedly refusing to let an Eritrean enter her chartered bus. Now, she claims to have been personally subjected to Tel Aviv's poshest brand of discrimination: the Bouncer Block.
The Times of Israel reports:
Regev was on a tour of the city’s bars and clubs to examine the widespread use of selection, or denial of access. It’s especially egregious, according to her, when the process prevents IDF soldiers from entering places.
When she reached the Clara club in the city’s beachside Dolphinarium complex, the MK, infamous for her outspoken criticism of Israel’s African migrant community, was blocked by bouncers at the door. Despite her attempt to reason with the guards, Regev was rejected repeatedly.
Finally, after summoning the owner of the Clara club and reminding him that the Tel Aviv Municipality had recently proposed a law to impose penalties on clubs and bars found guilty of selection, Regev was allowed onto the dance floor.
At which point, one would assume, MK Regev promptly left the dance floor.
The guy who takes table reservations for Clara started giggling uncontrollably when I told him about Regev's video, and told me to call Clara's landline for official comment. And the guy who answered the landline sounded annoyed, saying only "Everyone gets in who wants to" before the line cut out; he didn't pick up the rest of the day. (Hey, I tried.)
But the Likud party's outspoken frontwoman claims that velvet-rope discrimination in Tel Aviv goes beyond who's hot and who's not. “When soldiers from the best units in the IDF who protect the country are not allowed into clubs, that is shameful," she says in the video (as translated by the Times of Israel). And Channel 7 reports that Regev "claimed to have witnessed firsthand how a soldier was refused entry into a club after being 'screened' at the entrance." So she has taken action, proposing a local law to combat nightclub selection.
I contacted Regev for more on this alleged anti-army bias — which online commenters call a conspiracy by Leftist nightclub owners — but I have yet to hear back. In the meantime, the only other report I can find on IDF soldiers being turned away from Tel Aviv clubs is one from 2007 on IDF Radio, claiming that two IDF combat soldiers were kicked out of vegetarian queer bar Rogatka after being told by staff that their "uniforms symbolize genocide and violence."
Which seems to be a separate issue than Regev not fitting Clara's mainstream jailbait profile, but YouTube tours to publicize proposed Knesset bills have their limitations.
Across varying media reports, it's unclear whether Regev's new law would specifically ban clubs from blocking IDF soldiers from entry, or if it would ban door discrimination in general. However, not once in her PR rounds has she mentioned the problem of bouncer racism against Africans and other minorities in Tel Aviv — because heaven forbid the cancer spread to the dance floor.
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June 20, 2013 | 2:47 pm
Posted by Simone Wilson
Let's get this out of the way: I'm not Jewish. It doesn’t come up often. But it makes me part of a pretty slim minority in Tel Aviv: I can count on one hand the number of other non-Arab, non-refugee non-Jews who I've met working and living in this city. For me, Israel's favorite icebreaker — "Have you made aliyah yet?" — only ends in more awkwardness. My Hebrew skills are one bat mitzvah behind the rest of the arriving Americans. Whatever.
This is not to say that goys like myself are shunned here. On the contrary, I often feel V.I.P. — everyone seems tickled that an outsider would choose to make her life in Tel Aviv, further cementing the city's status as an international hotspot. There is a common tendency, then, to try to prove this place to me, to make sure I know that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not Israel's fault and to demonstrate that Israel can party as hard, eat as classy, invent as many gadgets, and live in as much comfort as any country in the Western world. (Which is about as effective as a dorky car salesman trying to convince me the Chevy Malibu he wants me to buy is uber-hip right now.)
Anyway, what impresses me about the free West, and what makes it worth defending, is not a sushi bar and tech startup on every block. It's independence of thought, and the high standard to which we hold the society we love.
I understand the urge around here to self-promote. The amount of veiled (and sometimes very not veiled) anti-Semitism radiating from the countries around Israel, and from Europe, has come as a bit of a shock to me. But that's not going to blow over the more Israel endorses itself. In fact, the tendency abroad to see Israel as a conniving group-thinking entity, and to lump its population in with its government, is given fuel every time an Israeli spokesperson refuses to differentiate the country's triumphs from its failures.
The backfiring of the Israeli government's "hasbara," or national PR campaign, has been showcased quite messily in the media. An attempt in 2010 to promote Tel Aviv as "one of the most intriguing and exciting new gay capitals of the world" was harshly criticized by a New York Times columnist as "pinkwashing" (a.k.a. covering up human-rights abuses against racial minorities by instead embracing the rights of the gay minority), and liberal Israeli magazine +972 recently ridiculed the country's overzealous "startup nation" campaign as a similar brand of "techwashing."
Living here, too, this desperation for approval has a strong stench.
During Israel's most recent conflict with Gaza in November, the government staffers and college students behind the "Israel Under Fire" Facebook page poured vast energies into identifying bogus photos of Palestinian casualties that had appeared in the mainstream media. But by not simultaneously mourning the hundreds of their neighbors who were in fact dying and injured under Israeli bomb strikes, their efforts to improve Israel's image in the eyes of the world were undermined by an "us versus them" platform and what looked to be a total lack of empathy.
Left-wing Israeli daily Ha'aretz (and columnist Gideon Levy) were among the first local institutions that really impressed me, upon my arrival to Israel, in regard to the national consciousness — not because I agreed with every word, but because of the paper's apparent self-awareness and will to hold Israel to a higher standard. Surprisingly, however, many Israeli peers and colleagues later expressed to me that they felt Ha'aretz, which reports a readership of over 2 million foreigners per month, was damaging the international perception of Israel.
I couldn't disagree more. The solution to Israel's PR problem, from where this shiksa is standing, is not through self-love or self-hate, but through self-evaluation. In my blog for the Jewish Journal, I hope to reflect the complex reality of Israel, and especially Tel Aviv — complex as any city of its size and influence, and beautiful for it. The one-eyed cats, the sweaty Haredis, the angry car horns, the playgrounds turned refugee camps — it all makes for a fascinating fabric.
Similarly, some of what drew me closest to Los Angeles in my years as a reporter there was the most depraved. Appreciating one's homeland in a present and relevant way means digging for its truths and poking at its flaws.
Over seven months of exploring Israel, I've come to believe that the most beneficial step my new country of residence can take for itself and its international stature, is to drop the constant defensiveness and engage in some honest observation and introspection. Not just from the apologetic Jewish left in America, but from within. For everything Israel has given me, this is how I hope to return the favor.